The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Play To Provoke, Not To Pander …

So this is the last post till next Thursday.

I know … I know … I’ve only just come back from China but now I’m off to the US, so you get 3 more days free from me. Given this month has had an alarming lack of posts given I’ve found myself in Fiji, Australia, China and America, you should consider October my early Christmas present to you all.

So to make up for that, here’s a relatively long post.

Which by my standards, means extra long.

So recently I caught up with an ex-colleague from cynic.

Given they were a bloody nightmare when we worked together, I’m still in shock how they are now a very senior figure in a very high profile company.

Damn them, hahaha.

Anyway, we were chatting and they said how bad they thought agencies were in pitches.

Specifically, their desperation to be liked.

They said they thought the business plan for many agencies is to out-pander the competition.

It got so bad that apparently in a recent meeting, they asked the agency:

“If we’re so good and doing so well, why would we need you?”



Yep … but they have a point.

I remember once being told to not challenge the clients previous work as someone in the room might have made it … even though we were literally in a pitch to reinvent the clients work.

And while it was an exception in my career [which I ignored and – guess what – we won!!!] the reality is I am hearing this happening more and more, which is why my friends commentedjust seemed to underline its validity.

Which leads me to some questions …

What do agencies think our job is?

What do agencies want to do and change?

And for the companies that buy into this, what do they want their agencies to do for them?

I appreciate I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career by working with/for/under people, agencies and clients [not to mention my parents] who deeply value debate and provocation to get to better places. I also acknowledge there is an art to HOW you challenge … rather than go in with fists and elbows.

But the idea of pandering rather than provoking seems insane to me.

Sure, you have to have a point of view rather than just have a desire to be controversial … but while you can’t be blind to the good stuff people are doing, neither should you be to the bad.

I swear part of the problem is this attitude we are part of the ‘service’ industry.

That our job is to serve.

To stay silent.

To satisfy needs.

And while we are there to serve our clients … it’s in the quest of helping them be better, not be subservient to. But increasingly it feels that is what a lot of people are expecting – and why a lot of agencies are pandering – which is why I will always treasure something my brilliant ex-NIKE/FFI client and friend – Simon Pestridge – once said to me:

“Middle management want to be told they’re right. Senior management want to know how to be better”.

He’s right.

He’s never been more right.

It’s why the people who worked for him are also great clients … because he set great standards, of which one of them was understanding that transparency, truth and challenge are ultimate signs of respect not confrontation.

Debate isn’t bad.

In my mind, it means you both want to get to somewhere better.

Where you’re holding each other to standards and ambitions you hold dear.

Of course, to do this properly you need to share ambition, standards and trust … not just philosophically, but in terms of the actual work and change you want to create together.

I mean … if you can’t be provocative during a pitch – when a client is literally looking for new ideas – when the hell can you be?

Which all reinforces something my parents used to say to me …

Everyone wants to be liked, but you go further when you’re respected.

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The Bank That Doesn’t Do Itself Credit …

Another day … another rant.

Whereas yesterday I went off at a brand I love/d, today is different.

It’s a bank.

Not just any bank … but a bank who once made me fly from Singapore to Sydney because they insisted they could check my passport ‘by sight’ before they released our funds for us to buy our house.

I should point out they weren’t our mortgage lender … they just wanted to make life very difficult for us and when I rang their ‘helpline’, I was told:

“No one is going to help you here”

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about ANZ Australia.

A bank only second to my nemesis – HSBC – for terrible behaviour, which for anyone who knows the hell that HSBC put us through when we lived in China, will know this means ANZ Australia aren’t too crash hot in my opinion.

So what have they done this time? This …

Why the hell are they writing like they’re doing their customers a massive favour saying they’ll keep paying them interest – “even if you make a withdrawal or can’t make a deposit that month” – when your base rate is 0.01%.


To put that in context, if you had AU$10,000,000 … you’d make $1,000 over a year.

Banks charge you for holding your money.

They charge you for using your money.

They close branches to give worse customer service.

They ask you to deal with your own financial issues via the internet.

They find any reason and way to be able to increase their fees.

Many got bailed out – or helped – by our tax dollars.

And then they offer you an interest rate that is so below the current rate of inflation that their ‘financial advice’ equates to literally having less money than you started with and they act like you should be grateful to them for it.

What the fuck?

Either they don’t care or they’re totally delusional.

No wonder people are open to things like crypto … because however much of a risk it is, at least there’s a chance – however small – you may get something out of it, which 0.01% is not going to offer.

Seriously ANZ Australia … stop taking your customers for fools.

As the old adage states, ‘action speaks louder then words’ and your actions continually reinforce you’re about the money not the service. And you know what, I think everyone would have a better opinion of you if you just owned up to that.

We need you and you will charge us for that privilege.

I get it. And – ironically – I’d think more of you for doing that than this ‘helpful and considerate’ tone you’re trying to present. Or even more bizarrely, maybe believe.

I get no one wants to admit they’re an asshole, but regardless what your ‘brand tracking’ and focus groups say, most people think you’re a great dump of calculator catastrophe.

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Just Blowing It …
October 25, 2023, 8:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Advertising, Attitude & Aptitude, Nike, Sport, Wieden+Kennedy

Back in 2016, I was invited to Paris to meet with Nike’s senior leadership and talk to them about where the brand is going.

Given I was the only person invited from Wieden to do this, I felt really honoured … so you can imagine the attendees surprise when I said they were in danger of becoming ‘the beast they were meant to slay’.

They took this pretty well.

Mainly because it was true.

We then spent the afternoon discussing where we’re making mistakes and where we should be doubling down.

And while it had a teensy bit about me – and a lot to do with Wieden – I feel there were a few years where they got shit together.

Then things changed …



Chasing the cash.

Which may all explain this …

First you all they call people ‘consumers’ rather than athletes.

I mean, that’s bad enough … but to then go on about how they constantly evaluate the best way to serve their audience, before announcing they’re leaving NZ, is mind-bendingly mad.

Given a few weeks ago they chose not to make a retail version of West Bridgford born, Women’s England goalkeeper – and World Cup ‘Golden Glove’ winner – Mary Earps, I can’t help wondering what the hell Nike have against Nottingham, let alone NZ?

While back in 2016, they had made some decisions that led me to that presentation, I never imagined they could go this off-piste, and it breaks my heart because I love the brand and loved working with them.

But now?

Seems they misunderstood ‘dream crazy’ as act stupid.

But I’ll tell you something even worse …

Despite all this, they’re still better than most brands and that is terrifying.

I hope NIKE rediscover their love of the athlete and sport soon.

Not just for their sake … but for every little kid who needs to discover the power of sport to discover who they are and who they can become.

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Creative Security …

For all the talk of creativity, what is often not acknowledges is it starts with the brain.

Regardless whether we make art or come up with a lateral solution to a complex problem … creativity is born from the mind.

Sometimes it’s because we have given something a lot of thought.

Sometimes it’s because we actively choose not to fall into logic and tropes.

Sometimes it’s because we see the world differently.

But at the start of everything interesting, is the brain.

I say this because I read something that a UK supermarket is doing to combat shoplifting.

As is the case in many countries, the UK is suffering from a shoplifting epidemic.

While some of this is from organised gangs, petty thieves and bored-to-fuck teens, the economic situation is forcing people who would never have previously stolen anything, turning to crime to feed their family.

Of course, the Tory Government who got the country in this mess are vilifying these people … and while I am not advocating crime, I don’t advocate people living with hunger, desperation and no future either.

That said, it’s got so bad that – as the picture above shows – even blocks of cheese are now being alarmed, so Waitrose, the British Supermarket, have turned to creativity to help solve their problem.

[I should point out given the profits supermarkets make – especially over COVID – I am also not entirely sympathetic to their ‘struggle’, but I do feel for the people who work there and I like this idea, hence this post]

So based on the view that a Police presence reduces the chance of crime, Waitrose are offering all Police Officers on duty, free coffee.

Their hope is that by having Police cars parked outside and Police officers inside, petty thieves will be deterred from trying to steal.

Of course, given the lack of trust – or fear – so many now view the authorities, maybe it will all be in vain … or worse, will ‘gamify’ the shoplifting experience … but it’s certainly a better and cheaper idea than locking up every single food item.

They’re calling this promotion, ‘thanks a latte’.

Terrible name, interesting idea.

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If The Woods Are Burning, The Streets Are Screaming …

Hello daaaaarlings, I’m back.

What an amazing week.

I met so many incredible people and not one of them looked too disgusted at my outfits … except the designer from Celine, but then I was wearing a t-shirt featuring an image of my cat.

She literally asked, “which designer is that” … and when I told her it wasn’t a designer, it was my 16 year old cat, she smiled a smile that failed to convey her utter fear – to which she made her excuses and got the hell away from me, hahahaha.

That aside, the conference was a celebration of creativity and the stories that inspire it … which may explain why I loved the tweet – from Nick Beggs, at the top of this page – so much.

For those who don’t know who Nick is, he’s the virtuoso bass player who was once in the band Kajagoogoo.

This is what Kajagoogoo looked like.

For reference, Nick is the blonde spiky haired guy in the middle.

And for those who don’t know what the ‘Too Shy’ he’s refereeing to is … it’s this.

Oh – and finally – if you’re wondering why I called him a bass playing virtuoso, it’s because of this … playing with another 80’s icon, Howard Jones./font>

But the reason I love this tweet is not because I’m a fan of Nick or Kajagoogoo or even Howard – it’s because of that photo he posted.

Look at it.

A nondescript flat.

Nothing fancy. Nothing grand.

A place like millions all across England.

Filled with everyday people from all walks of life.

Likely struggling to balance the never-ending demands of life.

And yet, in 1982, some young guys got together and wrote one of the iconic songs of the 80’s.

Changing their life and creating a legacy.

And that’s what I think is so fucking fantastic about it …

A reminder that while so many in our industry like to talk about the processes and eco-systems, the reality of creativity is its born from environments – both physical and personal.

We are in danger of forgetting that.

We will be – and are – worse off for following that.

Hiring an ever-ending production line of similar people.
Putting the same set of case-studies on the same pedestals.
Following the same group of ‘best practice’ models that get us to the same places.
Forcing creativity to fit inside structures designed for convenience rather than connection.
People in power valuing duplication, rather than originality.

It’s why creating the conditions for creativity to thrive is not some sort of superficial vanity.

It’s total, fucking sanity.

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